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Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledges U.S. support in trip to Moldova – UPI.com

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1 of 2 | Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Moldova to re-emphasize U.S. support for the country against Russian interference ahead of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Prague. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 29 (UPI) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the United States pledged a combined $135 million in aid for Moldova to build energy independence from Russia and increase cybersecurity.

Blinken announced the new round of funding during a joint press briefing with Moldovan President Maia Sandu in the country’s capital of Chisinau.

The secretary visited Moldova to reaffirm American support for the country amid fear of the impact of Russian aggression on other countries in the region.

“The Russian attacks on the Ukrainian energy grid have exacerbated Moldova’s own energy challenges, raising electricity prices, hurting business and harming consumers,” Blinken said. “The partnership that we have to reduce Moldova’s dependence on Russian energy, to enhance connectivity with Europe, to increase the use of renewables, all of that is moving forward.”

The United States will contribute $85 million — part of a $300 million United States Agency for International Development effort — to enhance Moldovan energy infrastructure, such as battery storage and high-voltage transmission lines, Blinken said.

Sandu said Moldova has taken steps to move away from total dependence on Russian energy and will purchase natural gas from several sources, including the United States.

“In this way, we have more accessible and better options,” Sandu said, noting the country also continues to invest in renewable energy sources.

Moldova also has been able to modernize its agricultural infrastructure thanks to USAID funding, Sandu said.

Moldovan Prime Minister Dorin Recean also praised USAID contributions to the country’s economic development outside of the energy sector, such as in winemaking, information technology and tourism.

“Everywhere we look, we will see a considerable contribution provided by programs implemented through USAID,” Recean said.

Blinken on Wednesday also said the Biden administration will work with Congress to grant another $50 million to bolster Moldovan cybersecurity infrastructure and push back against Russian disinformation.

Moldova, which is in the running to join the European Union, has repeatedly accused Russia of orchestrating disinformation campaigns and meddling in elections, which Russia has denied.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion into Ukraine in February 2022, the United States has provided more than $774 million in aid to Moldova, including efforts to combat “destabilizing actions” from Russia, Blinken said.

Blinken also thanked Sandu and Moldova for sheltering over one million Ukrainian refugees since the war began and offering them jobs, health care and education.

“Truly, a small country with a big heart,” Blinken said.

Blinken this week is scheduled to also travel to Prague for a NATO foreign ministers meeting and to meet with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský to discuss continued support for Ukraine.

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